What's New for 2008
The 2008 Ford Shelby GT500 gains a couple of new features. Safety is enhanced via newly standard front-seat side airbags and the option of xenon headlights. Those looking for a cozier cabin should consider the new Ambient Interior Lighting option, which gives the owner the choice of seven colors to illuminate the footwells, console and cupholders.
Quick, name the most powerful Ford Mustang ever. If you think it's from the late 1960s or early '70s, go back to listening to that Jimi Hendrix eight-track -- you're a few decades off. The correct answer is the 2008 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. With a 500-horsepower supercharged V8, this "King of the Road" Mustang promises to push its jockey into the seat with even more gusto than any pony of the past.
In addition to the supercharged V8, the Shelby GT500 features a six-speed manual transmission, a tuned suspension, sticky 18-inch Goodyear F1 supercar tires and meaty Brembo brakes with 14-inch front rotors fitted with four-piston front calipers. Of course there are the obligatory racing stripes, emblazoned with "GT500" just like its Age of Aquarius forerunner. Of course there's a beefed-up chassis that's up to the task of handling all the power belted out by that monster motor.
It all works quite well -- the Shelby GT500 is more than a one-dimensional straight-line stormer. It's actually a more agile performer than a few things on its spec sheet might suggest -- 2-ton curb weight, big and heavy engine up front, low-tech solid rear axle in the rear. Quick-ratio steering, along with an unobtrusive traction control system, allows for plenty of tail-out thrills. Massive rubber fore and aft (front tires are 255/45R18s, while those in back measure 285/40R18) does a respectable job of managing all that power and weight.
There are a few downsides to the 2008 Ford Shelby GT500, however. The cabin materials are more $15K than $45K. And being nearly 800 pounds heavier than a Corvette, the GT500 is not going to give any serious sports car fits on a twisty two-lane road. But the GT500 is more about being the ultimate Mustang than shaving seconds off a road course. With styling that pays a tasteful tribute to the original GT500 along with performance that will embarrass the legendary Boss 429, today's GT500 is a bargain.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Ford Shelby GT500 is based on the Mustang. As such, it is rear-wheel drive, seats four and can be had as either a coupe or a convertible. The GT500 comes with 18-inch alloy wheels shod with high-performance Goodyear F1 tires (255/45 front and 285/40 rear), hood-mounted heat extractors, a front air splitter, a ducktail-style rear spoiler, air-conditioning, leather-upholstered sport bucket seats with Cobra logos, a power driver seat, a 500-watt stereo with CD changer, cruise control and full power accessories. The GT500 convertible also comes with a power-operated soft top. Both the GT500 coupe and convertible have "GT500" side stripes, while the coupe also has racing stripes over the nose and tail; Ford offers a stripe-delete option for buyers who prefer a stealth look.
Options include a navigation system, an upgraded 1,000-watt sound system, satellite radio, xenon headlights, an Ambient Interior Lighting option (which gives the owner the choice of seven colors with which to illuminate the cockpit) and a Premium interior trim package (which includes a leather-wrapped dash top, upgraded door panels, auto-dimming rearview mirror and sport pedals). A sunroof is not available on the coupe.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2008 Ford Shelby GT500 uses essentially the same supercharged 5.4-liter V8 that was fitted to Ford's recently departed GT supercar. There are some key differences: To keep the cost down on the GT500 there is a wet-sump oil system (versus race-oriented dry-sump), a cast-iron block (instead of aluminum) and a "Roots-type" supercharger (instead of an Eaton "screw-type" with 13.5 psi). The result is 500 hp and 480 pound-feet of torque. Our performance testing yielded very impressive numbers: a 4.6-second 0-60-mph sprint and a 12.8-second time for the quarter-mile.
A Tremec six-speed manual gearbox routes all that through a 3.31 limited-slip rear axle. No automatic transmission is available. EPA fuel economy estimates, at 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway, are respectable considering the exotic-car level of performance on tap.
Antilock disc brakes by Brembo feature four-piston calipers and 14-inch rotors up front with two-piston calipers and 11.8-inch discs in back are standard, as are traction control and front seat side airbags. Stability control is not available and there is no spare tire, just a temporary inflation kit.
Interior Design and Special Features
Interior color choices are limited to either all-black or black and red. Special accents include an aluminum shifter knob and metallic trim that's scattered about the cabin. A Premium interior package provides a stitched leather trim for the top of the dash along with upgraded door trim and aluminum sport pedals. The instruments include a boost gauge and a trip computer/message center. The front seats are aggressively bolstered to hold one in place during hard cornering. Overall, the cabin is comfortable and the controls are easy to use, but there's too much hard plastic given the car's price. Trunk capacity measures 12.3 cubic feet in the coupe and 9.7 in the convertible.
With more power than any of the revered Shelby Mustangs of the 1960s, the 2008 Ford Shelby GT500 offers performance that's nothing short of intoxicating. Just as its specs suggest, the GT500 lunges forward with exotic-carlike verve when you boot the throttle. Gearchanges are positive and crisp, and the overall driving experience can be either civilized or brutal, depending on your mood and how quickly you move your throttle foot.
Despite its 2-ton curb weight, the GT500 is more than just a drag-strip performer. Careful suspension tuning by Ford's engineers and quick steering make it feel surprisingly nimble through the turns, while an unobtrusive traction control system allows for plenty of "slideways" action. On most roads, the GT500 is predictable and easy to drive, though hammering the throttle over a rough stretch will upset the car due to the non-independent rear suspension. With its huge disc brakes, brake fade is a non-issue and stopping power is amazing for such a heavy car -- a stop from 60 mph takes a relatively short 116 feet.